By Stephen Blankenship – Director, Product Management

In the old days, when constructing a building, especially one made of stone, the cornerstone was the key. This single piece of rock resided at the key junction where the various forces acting on the structure come into balance. If the cornerstone was dislodged, the rest of the structure would become unstable. If the cornerstone was reinforced, the building would stand strong. In the same way, the WAN is the key element in any enterprise video program that reaches out to businesses with multiple offices.

In the average multi-branch network, each facility has its own LAN, usually with plenty of bandwidth and high speeds. Typically, the primary data center is in the corporate headquarters – or an entirely separate facility – and each office is connected by the WAN so the various branches can access the data center resources. This setup is ideal for most business applications because the network can handle sending large quantities of small data packets, which is what most enterprise applications use. However, video that is sent through the WAN can use almost all of the network’s bandwidth on its own.

This creates a major problem because Ethernet is designed to send as much data as possible based on data packet transmissions. When the bandwidth is full, it simply drops one of the data packets and automatically resends the information. This is effective for most business functions, but can completely derail video transmission. As a result, the WAN becomes the cornerstone. If it cannot handle the bandwidth needs of video, the project will likely fail. But if you can equip the network to meet the unique needs of data-rich video content, the WAN will be a key part of delivery strategy.

WAN optimization, a popular solution for dealing with WAN bandwidth issues, will not get the job done for video because it simply manages data packets efficiently; it cannot overcome the problems that occur when video data packets are so big that they clog the WAN on their own. Instead, organizations need to look for video-specific solutions that work around the limitations of the WAN and ensure that content not only gets to end users, but also reaches them without disrupting performance for other applications and services.